Australian national broadcaster stops airing Chinese state-run TV over human rights concerns

Australian national TV network SBS has announced that it will no longer broadcast content from CGTN and CCTV, China’s state-run TV channels, over claims that the stations aired dozens of forced confessions from prisoners.

SBS, which specializes in broadcasting multilingual content, launched an investigation into the allegations after the human rights group Safeguard Defenders raised concerns about CGTN and CCTV airing 56 forced confessions between 2013 and 2020.

“Given the serious concerns it raises and the complexity of the material involved, we have made the decision to suspend the broadcast of the overseas-sourced CGTN and CCTV news bulletins,” a spokesperson for the broadcaster confirmed.

The move is likely to further increase tensions between Beijing and Canberra. Australia has been working to reduce the influence of Chinese government-controlled companies in the country, with Beijing sanctioning Australian exports in return. The media has also become a target amid the strained relations between the two countries.

Last year, two Australian journalists were forced out of China and a Chinese-Australian journalist was imprisoned. Over in Australia, the homes of four individuals who work for Chinese state media were raided as part of an investigation by authorities into influence operations. The Chinese Foreign Ministry issued a statement on Wednesday raising concern over increased “discrimination against Asians, including Chinese and overseas Chinese,” with the country’s foreign minister calling on the Australian government to "face the problem squarely."

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Safeguard Defenders is a human rights NGO that was founded in 2016 with the mission of protecting the rule of law, civil society and human rights in “some of the most hostile environments in Asia.”

The group recently issued a statement on its website criticizing Canada’s TV regulator for failing to investigate Chinese networks over alleged systematic violations, despite a comprehensive complaint being filed nearly 14 months ago. Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications has claimed that the complaint is being “reviewed by our experts.”

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